The last four years have not been kind to America. Our place in the world shifted from that of a world leader to “America First”; whether you agree with the premise that America has been a doormat and needs to take care of itself, without deference to others, perhaps you can agree that it has changed us and how we look at each other.

If you are a rich person, putting yourself first is unnecessary and doesn’t honor the intrinsic goodness within. Nor does it honor the gratefulness that comes from being lucky enough to be born here or blessed enough to be able to have earned the “American Dream.” Whether we are silver-spooners or bootstrappers who clawed their way to a place where the next meal or a warm house awaits, we still have responsibilities to each other.

“Those of us who are warm and dry and safe and well fed must show up for those who are cold and wet and endangered and hungry. That is a rule of life. Every ethical and religious and spiritual tradition in the world agrees on that rule.” — Elizabeth Gilbert, TheCompassionateCollective (

In the Army, a friend shared the exuberance felt crossing the finish line of a 10-mile run in boot camp, only to be told she was not done yet; she needed to go back to help her fellow soldiers, still laboring to get to the finish. She would not be done until the last man/woman came over that line. Not until they were safe, water in their hands, could she rest. Honor comes with responsibility and when we put ourselves first, sometimes society suffers.

This week, a YouTube video went viral of a young man helping a 94-year-old woman walk across an icy street. No big deal, but the humanity was obvious as he was being secretly filmed by a passerby. Perhaps it is because seeing pure goodness is rarer now than ever.

And then the story of Bill Duffy, a sports agent who 17 years ago represented a journeyman professional basketball player. Bill made a mistake, missing a deadline, and a paperwork snafu costing his client Anthony Carter $3.1 million. Duffy then did something unprecedented. He knew he could get Carter only a fraction of those dollars back on the free agent market and offered to pay Carter back the difference. It took about 200 months at an average of $10,000 a month to clear the debt, but this month the final payment happened.

Carter, now an assistant coach with the Heat, never thought much about it when it happened. “I wasn’t even mad, to tell you the truth. I knew the type of person Bill is and ‘things happen.’”

Things produce cause-and-effect. A person’s moral code is built on principle and passed on. For Bill and Anthony, one made a $2 million-plus mistake right; the other took that mistake in stride.


Another thing happened recently that gives pause and encouragement that a new age is dawning. Major League Baseball voted to include Negro League statistics with American and National League numbers. The big thing is there is no asterisk. All records become combined, as they have been when a player played in both the American and National Leagues. Willy Mays gets a home run added to his 660 and Jackie Robinson now gets another 38 hits added to his major league totals. Ted Williams .406 is no longer the last time a major leaguer ended a season batting over 400. It puts Black players who played before integration on the same comparative field as Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and all others.

While some who claim to be “purists” might object, those who believe, like Bill Duffy above, in doing the right thing, will rejoice. Putting them as simply equal is a more powerful statement than putting them side-by-side, calling them equal but not the same.

As with Confederate monuments, no one is suggesting we forget history; rather the new dawn suggests we honor history with truth. Perhaps if we see who we were, it will motivate us to new and better selves.

When we study history, as Laura Spinney does in her book “Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918,” we learn what has happened in the past mirrors what is happening 100 years later. There is correlation in the election of Biden to Harding’s 1920 landslide victory because his, like Biden’s, basic campaign was predicated on his promise to return normalcy because of America’s need to heal — not revolt, and to restore — not agitate — through adjustment, not dramatic change.

The book shares that plagues devastate populations, giving rise to boom periods as the work force contracts; wages go up, as does pent-up demand for goods and services.

The times ahead begin Jan. 20, 2021. We, the American people, are captains of our ship, all of us with unique potential that will determine our destiny.


“The universe is made up of stories, not of atoms.” — Muriel Rukeyser, poet and activist (1913-1980)